by Nina Joubert

Recently my brothers and I inherited a holiday cottage. As grateful as we are for this gift our grandmother left us, we’ve found ourselves rather frustrated with the admin attached to ownership.

Suddenly there are extra bills to pay, longwinded forms to sign, grumpy neighbours to deal with and overgrown trees that need cutting. What’s the real issue? None of us live in the same city and none of us live in the town of our shared property.

Enter communication 101. This is how we’ve survived. Sending a ton of emails back and forth deciding whether we should get that alarm, rent the place, or plain straight sell it. And you’d be surprised how much mail gets racked up over each point, cue annoyance and irritation.

Yet another email arrived with a form that needed signing. I was to print, sign and fax it to Brother A. Brother A had to do the same and then send it to Brother B. Brother B would then send it on to whoever needed the form. These directions were stated clearly in our email. Simple. Well… not so much.

A follow up call to Brother A soon revealed nuclear levels of irritation and a rant about ‘clutter’, ‘endless messages’ and leaving him out of our next email exchange.

He went on to say he’d faxed the form back to me and now I was irritated. Clearly laid out instructions done away with, it was obvious he hadn’t read his emails all along.

So how did I manage to have my own kin treat my personal emails as spam?
  1. Too many emails. An email a day would have done the trick, but the kind of emails we were sending required discussion and would fill the inbox quickly. The first email was most likely opened and read. A few minutes later, a response received and read. Soon enough: another mail, then another and a few more. His reaction in a busy day? Ignore further incoming emails.
    Moral: If you want to keep your audience engaged don’t overkill on the frequency of sending.
  2. Non-engaging subject line. Our subject line would stay the same when discussing one point. I bet if I’d changed it randomly to something that would catch his attention like: “Municipality has overcharged us”, he would be more likely to open his mail and read the content.
    Moral: The subject line of an email is the first impression, make it count.
  3. Valuable content. Although most of our content was valuable and important, some replies would read something like this “OK I’ll do it”. A whole email for those few words? A killer. Brother A probably opened an email like that one and thought: “I don’t have time for this.”
    Moral: Insert content people will have time for.

To my brother I’m a trustworthy source, it’s normal to expect an email from me without signing any kind of subscription form. On top of that the content I am sending directly involves him and calls for his attention. So if he is treating me like a super spammer, it’s possible your audience looks at your emails the way my brother looks at mine. You can’t change your family, but you can change your email strategy.